Cambodia's opposition leader gets 2-year sentence

A Cambodian court sentenced opposition leader Sam Rainsy to two years in prison in absentia on Wednesday.

Cambodia's opposition leader gets 2-year sentence

A Cambodian court sentenced opposition leader Sam Rainsy to two years in prison in absentia on Wednesday.

Rainsy's supporters and lawyers said he was found guilty of property destruction and inciting racial discrimination after urging villagers who were evicted from border land to uproot marker posts on a newly agreed frontier with Vietnam.

His Sam Rainsy Party accused the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of interfering with the judicial process to sideline Rainsy, now in self-imposed exile in France and an arch rival of powerful Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"I am not surprised with the court's decision because the court is a tool of the CPP to silence the opposition," Sam Rainsy Party spokesman and lawmaker Yim Sovann said by telephone.

"We will not appeal because the court is the puppet and a theatre," he said.

Cambodia's parliament passed laws last year banning protests of more than 200 people and tightening defamation legislation.

Vietnam's influence

Vietnam had lodged an official complaint over the Oct. 25 incident in Svay Rieng province, when the French-educated Rainsy, a staunch critic of Vietnam's influence over Cambodia, encouraged villagers evicted from their land to rebel.

Vietnam is a growing investor in Cambodia, and the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on Dec. 26 over planned Vietnamese investments worth more than $6 billion.

Two of the villagers were given prison terms of a year each on Wednesday for uprooting some of the wooden posts in protest against the government's border demarcation.

Rainsy was fined $2,000 and ordered to pay $14,000 in compensation for damage caused to the border posts. The court session lasted seven hours and took place under tight security.

Yim Sovann said Rainsy would only return to Cambodia if the government released all villagers imprisoned over land disputes.

Sam Sokong, lawyer for the jailed villagers, said the ruling was "a step backwards" for Cambodia's democracy.

"The decision is not acceptable because the villagers are victims who lost the land they have occupied since 1979," he told Reuters by telephone.


Reuters

Last Mod: 27 Ocak 2010, 15:18
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